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Welcoming the Little Ones (Matt 10:40-42)

July 3, 2014

A VIP is a person who receives special welcomes due to his or her important status. So the VIPs receive high-quality service at the VIP lounge at airports and the VIP hotel rooms. Even though you may not a VIP in a public place, however, you can be a VIP for someone whom you love or for a place that you belong to. Your husband or wife should be the VIP for you. Your children or grandchildren should be VIPs for you. Your friends should be VIPs for you. Who are the VIPs in your life?

There are three characters appeared in today’s gospel passage: a disciple, a prophet, and a righteous person. And they are the VIPs in the Kingdom of God. What is the common central message that we can hear from these three figures? A disciple, a prophet, and a righteous person are not job titles, but they are a special group of people. They may be messengers who deliver God’s message to the world. But they are the people who are called to usher in the Kingdom of God. By the Kingdom of God I mean God’s vision which is beyond our reality.

Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes a disciple, welcomes me. Whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous” (Matt 10:40-41). Jesus invites us to the life of disciples, prophets, and the righteous. Jesus calls us to the group of VIPs in the Kingdom of God.

What is the life of these people? Jesus answers the question by giving an example for the life of these people. It is the welcoming of little ones: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matt 10:42). The term “little ones,” does not merely refer to children, but it actually refers to the insignificant people. In Jesus’ ministry they are sinners, women, children, the Gentiles, those who were possessed with demons, those who were sick, and those who were poor. In his ministry, Jesus showed us the way of discipleship. He embraced these insignificant people, and made them witnesses to God’s good news. Even Jesus’ disciples were insignificant. By welcoming these people Jesus dreamed of the Kingdom of God.

One of the central prophetic messages in the Old Testament is to love the insignificant person in the ancient society; they are orphans and widows. A righteous person in the Bible is not a good person, but it is the one who fears God and walks with God like Noah. Boaz was a righteous person who kept the Torah which contains the love of God and love of neighbor. By observing the Torah, in particular, he welcomed the Moabite woman Ruth. Like the righteous person Boza, Jesus invites us to join in this group of people who welcomes the little ones.

The little ones in the Bible are also the strangers. Indeed, they are the patriarchs and the people of ancient Israel. Abraham was a stranger in Canaan; Jacob also was a stranger in Haran. The people of Israel was a pilgrim people (Deut 26:5-15), especially during the Exodus journey when they received manna from God in the wilderness (Exodus 16-17). Because of their experience of being strangers, they are encouraged not to forget the message of welcoming.

Welcoming means embracement. It does not simply mean receive someone to our homes and to our church, but it is to embrace strangers as brothers and sisters. It is usually understood as the term “hospitality” which represents the relationship between the guest and the host. Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet can be a good example of hospitality. In this way, hospitality is more than the good caring. As Jesus made his disciples VIPs, Jesus challenges us to accept the little ones.

We can find these little ones in the Bible. David was one of them. He once was an insignificant person, but God lifted him up, and made him the greatest king. Bethlehem was a “little among the thousands of Judah.” This lowly, ordinary, insignificant place God embraced –a place in which we have the opportunity to see God among us. We also learn God’s inclusive love from Jesus’ genealogy, which includes four non-Israelite women. God does great things through unnoticed people and in insignificant places.

Who are the little ones in your life and in our community? Broadly, they may be immigrants or racial minorities. Socially, they may be the sexual minority. They may be a physical or mental handicapped. Economically, they may be the low income families. Jesus invites us to love these people. What does it mean to love these people? It means that you should accept these people as your brothers and sisters. Make them VIPs for the kingdom of God.

You accepted and embraced me as your pastor. You showed me God’s inclusive love by making me as your friend. You made me a VIP for your life. Here is the good news that Jesus promised to give us a disciple’s reward, a prophet’s reward, and the reward of the righteous. I am so glad that we will NOT receive the reward of the world, such as wealth, or success, or achievement, but blessings that come from God. It is the reward that we can see God in the little thing and in the insignificant persons, and it is the blessing that we make disciples in the midst of our lives- opening our lives to witnessing God’s actions in the world. Amen.

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